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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Voters have pulled levers for last time

Dave E. serves as an election judge, so he wrote that he was a little miffed that the only notice this was in the Post-Gazette.

On Thursday, four companies will display the next generation of voting technology during an event at the Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh hotel. From 1 to 6 p.m., members of the public may try different machines and give their opinions to county officials.

At 5 p.m., County Council will hold a public hearing in the Gold Room of the county courthouse to discuss the issue.

The county will spend about $20 million next year to replace 2,800 lever machines; the federal government is likely to cover $12 million of the cost. New equipment needs to be in place by the May 17 primary.

The Pennsylvania Department of State has certified one company's machine. It uses a touch-screen system which displays one ballot question at a time on a computer monitor. Officials are likely to approve competing systems within the next few weeks.

The bottom line given the history of electronic voting machines being deployed and then found to be totally untrustworthy is that this decision should be made very very carefully. This is especially true in Allegheny County because the existing gear & lever machines are very reliable--there just plain is no emergency here.

Instead what's in progress is a monumental screw-up. The state requires the county to buy state-certified machines and the federal government has required the county to act by the end of the year, but the state STILL hasn't finished certifying machines.

If you can grab an hour or two Thursday to look at the machines, please do. But I think we need to think about more than that. I guess I'd like to see Congress extend the federal deadline until we can get some assurance that our votes won't be hijacked. Or maybe the county needs to sue the state to recover the federal funds it should forfeit in order to do the job right. Is it possible to interest Russ Diamond's group?

Dave Eckhardt

The solution -- in my not so humble opinion -- is to use "open source software." Who is going to certify the open-source software solution?


  • At 11:47 AM, Blogger TripleJ said…

    >>The solution -- in my not so humble opinion -- is to use "open source software." Who is going to certify the open-source software solution?<<

    I agree, at least with Open Source, anyone can examine the code. The open source community will have no trouble identifying the potential problems.

    This will mean two things:

    1) Deliberate cheating becomes impossible when everyone can criticize. Not just the official referees.

    2) Any flaw (deliberate or not) can be found quickly and repaired.

    I certainly would trust an open source voting system far more than I would a proprietary one, just as I trust Linux and OpenBSD far more than Microsoft Windows.


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